Successful 21-Year-Old Photog Shares His Inspirational World View at TEDxYouth

There’s a belief that being successful as a photographer these days runs the possibility gamut from difficult to almost impossible, but examples like Wyn Wiley seem to run contrary to that belief. Wiley is a very successful 21-year-old photographer, and in the Lincoln Nebraska TEDxYouth talk above, he blows minds by sharing his incredibly optimistic and inspirational world view.

Before discovering photography, Wiley admits to living a lonely existence. His days consisted of going to school, coming home and hanging out with his cats watching television. That is, until he discovered his father’s Nikon D80.

From that point on, his cats became his models rather than his companions, and as his ability to compose great shots improved, he began taking senior portraits and, ultimately, booking major clients. It was a four-year journey, but now his portfolio includes work shot for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Starbucks, Shutterfly, Husker Athletics, Martha Stewart Magazine and more:


But it’s not his whirlwind success that is the inspirational part of this story, it’s his attitude towards and definition of success. “I’ve learned what true success is,” says Wyn. “I’ve realized that I don’t need to be this rock star photographer, I can be little old Wyn Wiley, in Lincoln, NE, shooting weddings and senior portraits and my stinkin’ cats and I can still change the world.”

“See for me, true success is putting a smile on someone’s face,” continues Wyn. “True success is creating memories. True success is realizing the individual and unique beauty and brilliance in each and every one of my clients.”

And so, Wiley continues to shoot senior portraits even as major clients approach him with bigger opportunities, because the joy he as a skilled photographer is able bring into these seniors’ lives — and, in return, the inspiration they provide for him — is the kind of success he’s looking for.

Check out the video at the top to hear everything Wyn has to say, and if you’d like to see more of his photographic work, you can head over to his website or Facebook by clicking on the corresponding links.

(via Fstoppers)

  • Ray Liu

    I love how he came back to take a selfie at the end of the speech. :D

  • Good4all

    Good for him :) Good for me :) Good for the world that this young man figured it all out at such a great age! Thanks for sharing.

  • Woody ONeal

    Photography matters.

  • frank mckenna

    “I’ve realized that I don’t need to be this rock star photographer, I can be little old Wyn Wiley, in Lincoln, NE, shooting weddings and senior portraits and my stinkin’ cats and I can still change the world.”…. How True..

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    I am happy for him and I do wish I could feel the same optimism as him doing what he does. It really is remarkable how some people find the energy. And he is a good photographer. On one hand, his work is not special and won’t be remembered historically, but does it need to be? No. He feels successful and he enjoys doing what he does, which is worth more than historical fame.

    Though it does wake up some jealousy and also pessimism in me. This is high-quality technical-wise. But where is the punch, the soul of this kind of photography? I find it hard to see. But this kind of photography sells.

  • jkantor267

    I thought only 14-20-something women did such vapid work.

  • matt jones

    his humbleness makes him a great communicator

  • David Vaughn

    You’ve summed up my feelings better than I, myself, could do.

  • Good4all

    The soul is in the fact that he moved me. You have a soul, too, as evidenced by your gentle and kind response. Other things will move you, maybe this wasn’t it. All good :)

  • david

    what I learned from this. never think you can do better and do free work.

  • tarena1991

    I like his outlook… but his work is vapid and unoriginal

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